Film review: La Sinfónica de los Andes

By Julio Bedón February 20, 2020

The documentary La Sinfónica de los Andes focuses on the suffering a small indigenous community has endured as a result of Colombia’s conflict.

La Sinfónica de los Andes is a direct and sometimes shocking film that tackles the horrors of war.
La Sinfónica de los Andes is a direct and sometimes shocking film that tackles the horrors of war. Photo: Marta Rodríguez

In La Sinfónica de los Andes, legendary anthropologist and filmmaker Marta Rodríguez goes into northern Cauca to examine the disastrous consequences of war on a small Nasa community grieving the loss of numerous children who have fallen victim of the conflict. They never quite understood it but, tragically, were nonetheless part of it from birth. 

There is no grandiloquence in this film, it doesn’t pretend to be something bigger than it is. That’s a recognizable feature of Rodríguez’ filmography which goes way back to the 60s when she and her partner Jorge Silva started to pave the way for documentary filmmaking in Colombia with their debut film Chircales.

For over forty years she has managed to give a voice to hopeless and marginalised communities. She strives to give them the recognition they deserve but can’t find anywhere else.

The film is direct and doesn’t wander around. The crudeness that comes with the images the film presents and the chronicles of its characters are proof of it; shocking imagery that some viewers might find disturbing or heartbreaking, interviews about the passing of children that only confirms the horrors of war.

This documentary relies strongly on the spoken word, members of the Nasa community telling their heartbreaking stories about how, unexpectedly, little children and young members of their community were killed by the instruments of war that would constantly wake them up in the middle of the night, or take them off-guard while going to school. 

The titular music orchestra works both as an artifice that serves as the documentary’s soundtrack, but it also works a tool for healing, to honor these children and their families. With the help of the orchestra, these families hope to overcome what’s happened to them, all while waiting for proper reparations and a long overdue apology from the government and the armed groups for causing them so much pain.

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The film intertwines these touching testimonies with archival footage of many important moments in the history of the Colombian conflict, such as the demobilisation of the M19 guerrilla group or the 2016 peace agreement with FARC. But the most striking footage are some intimate clips depicting the M19 members training, discussing their demobilisation and showing them in the middle of a combat with the Colombian army.   

As many films about the conflict, La Sinfónica de los Andes is an invitation to never forget and to remember all those lives that have been lost. The film emphasises the deep and long lasting effects violence has had on this particular indigenous community.

It’s quite admirable how Marta Rodríguez allows these people to be heard, to express their opinions and grief. Especially at a time when the official institutions that should be doing that aren’t.

3.5/5 stars

La sinfónica de los Andes opens in Colombian theatres today.